For 20 years Shawn participated in organized crime, battled drug addiction and hurt the people who loved him most. Today he is living proof that change is possible.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without The Salvation Army,” says Shawn.
Shawn grew up in the Ottawa area and suffered both physical and sexual abuse as a child. As a result, he felt insignificant and unprotected.
To numb the pain, Shawn turned to a lifestyle of drug and alcohol abuse, and drug trafficking. This is how he lived from ages 14 to 39.
“I stayed in this lifestyle because I felt accepted, important and secure,” says Shawn. “But it’s not real. You think you’re secure, but really you’re not. ”
In 2010 Shawn was in jail facing 30 different charges related to domestic violence, weapons, stolen property, drugs and assaults. He was also addicted to cocaine and opiates. A few months after he was put in jail Shawn experienced a moment that changed his life.
“This feeling went right through me. I felt like I was hit by a freight train,” says Shawn. “I knew nobody else was responsible for the state I was in except me.”
A Haven for Healing
While in prison Shawn participated in both therapy and a treatment program. When he was released he participated in The Salvation Army’s Anchorage Addictions Program in Ottawa. After graduating in August 2012, Shawn moved to The Salvation Army’s Transitional House where he continues to receive the support he needs before making the next step to independent living.
Transitional House is an extension of The Salvation Army’s Ottawa Booth Centre men’s shelter. The house provides minimum-support housing for adult men who have limited resources and income as they transition to independent living situations. In a caring, supportive environment, residents are given the tools and encouragement needed to get back on their feet and into the community.
“I have never experienced the kind of support, kindness and thoughtfulness that I have received through The Salvation Army,” says Shawn. “They don’t judge you. They commit to you. They listen to you. You’re not just a number or a homeless person. They want to help you and don’t want anything in return.”
Strong and Determined
Shawn has made many positive changes since arriving at Transitional House. In the future he plans to attend college and become a social worker. He speaks to men in addictions programs and encourages others who are struggling.
Shawn wants to become a good role model for his daughter and help others.
“I started with nothing but now I have a lot,” says Shawn. “I don’t mean things like trucks or motorcycles I mean in here,” he says as he points to his chest. “And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
By Caroline Franks